WXXI AM News

Capitol Bureau

Capitol Bureau correspondent Karen DeWitt reports on what is happening in Albany, and how the decisions made by lawmakers affect you. Karen reports for WXXI and New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.

She is also a regular contributor to New York Now, the statewide public television program about New York State government seen on WXXI-TV Sundays at 6:30 p.m.  

Legislative leaders and Governor Cuomo are working on a constitutional amendment to reform redistricting in New York. But critics say in its present form, the proposal will not accomplish that.

Legislative leaders are crafting a constitutional amendment to create a bi partisan panel to draw new legislative and congressional district lines after the next census in 2020.

It’s coming down to the wire on redistricting in New York. A federal court has already usurped a gridlocked state legislature and drawn new congressional lines, and is now on track to redraw state legislative lines, too, if the Assembly and Senate do not agree on a bill by March 15th.

Talks between the Senate and Assembly on a comprehensive redistricting package bogged down over arguments about how to reconfigure congressional maps. New York will lose two seats and go from 29 to 27 representatives based on the 2010 census data.

Governor Andrew Cuomo is threatening to force pension reform through a recalcitrant state legislature if his proposals are not agreed to as part of the state budget.

Cuomo, who’s seeking a new benefit tier with lowered pension payments and a 401k option, says if the legislature does not agree with his plan by the time the state budget is due March 31st,  he may try to force the proposal through as part of a budget spending extender.

“If we come to a resolution with the legislature, fine,” Cuomo said. “Otherwise the alternative mechanism is through extenders.”

George Maragos

George Maragos, the front running Republican to challenge US Senator Kirsten Gillibrand admits he faces an “uphill battle,” but the former banker and now Nassau County Comptroller says he’ll spend up to $5 million dollars of his own money to compete.

The Cuomo Administration is cracking down on insurance companies and health care providers who stick patients with unexpected out of network service bills.

 

Legislative leaders spoke to a large gathering of AFSCME union members at the Capitol Tuesday who are opposed to Governor Cuomo’s pension reform plans. They offered support to the workers but remained neutral on the controversial issue.

In a new poll released Monday, voters give Governor Andrew Cuomo mixed reviews on his education policies. They say they like a new agreement on teacher evaluations, but a narrow margin say the governor is overall making the problems in the education system worse.

The poll, by Siena College, asked voters whether they think a new teacher evaluation system brokered by Governor Cuomo will improve the quality of education in New York.

Governor Andrew Cuomo’s popularity has slipped a bit in a new poll released Monday, but with a 69% approval rating, it seems the governor does not have much to worry about.

The Siena College poll finds that Cuomo’s approval rating among voters is down five percentage points from last month, but Siena’s Steve Greenberg says he doesn’t view that as a trend yet.

“His favorability rating, his job performance rating, are still the envy of any politician or elected official anywhere,” says Greenberg.

With one month to go before the state budget is due,  pension reform remains a focus of discussion between Governor Cuomo and the legislature.

Governor Cuomo pulled back a bit from his plan to offer, for the first time,  a 401k style option for newly hired public workers, saying he’s “flexible”  on  it, but the governor does say he’s not bending on the need for a new pension tier with lowered benefits that produces “maximum amount of savings”.

Rochester Mayor Tom Richards, Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks, New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg and mayors and county leaders from around the state came to the state Capitol to support Governor Andrew Cuomo’s push for pension reform, saying they are “crashing and burning” under the rising costs.

 

Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who organized the lobbying trip says the issue is very simple- pension payments are driving municipalities to near bankruptcy.

 

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